8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
City Arts Center
3000 General Pershing
$15, students/seniors $12
Keeping with the winning formula of past Reduxion shows, the setting of “Twelfth Night” has been updated to a not-so-distant past that audiences can identify more easily with “ in this case, France in 1888. In the hands of a lesser company, shifting a play’s settings can have disastrous results, but Reduxion makes Shakespeare live and breathe in other times and places.
From the moment this gender-bending comedy of mistaken identity begins with a musical number, you know you’re in for something special.
Fearing her brother dead, Viola disguises herself as a young man named Cesario and becomes a page in the household of Duke Orsino, who is desperately in love with Countess Olivia. While Olivia has no interest in Orsino, she does become smitten with Cesario, charged with conveying the Duke’s affections to Olivia.
The strong cast boasts a number of great performances. By injecting just the right amount of whimsy and earnest charm into this portrayal of Duke Orsino, Wil Rogers makes something special of what could be a rather thankless straight-man role. As the jester, Jeffrey Burleson nails some of the best lines in the play and gets to showcase his lovely singing voice. As the somewhat despicable Toby Belch and his friend Andrew Aguecheek, Chris Curtis and Ian Clinton are a formidable comedy team.
Kaitlin Wright and Jerrad Allbritton provide good support as the other two members of Belch’s mischievous quartet. Lindsay Zana’s portrayal of pirate captain Antonia is a delightful combination of adorable and bad-ass. As Malvolio, Brett Young goes so over-the-top that it’s a little jarring at first. Before long, however, he rightfully becomes an audience favorite, getting some of the biggest laughs while remaining sympathetic.
Lindsey Newell delivers on Viola’s emotional honesty, while also producing comedy gold as she finds it ever more difficult to juggle her false identity and true desires. As Countess Olivia and Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, Jennifer Koch Wells and Addison Miller deliver the play’s best performances by creating rich, nuanced characters and disappearing into them completely.
With bold and playful creative vision from director Erin Woods, innovative staging and art direction, and an excellent cast, Reduxion’s artful and hilarious production is sure to be one of this year’s best. “Eric Webb